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Illinois teen wins national 4-H award for local, global STEM education activism

Wednesday, October 6, 2021
Youth in a navy blue suit and text that says "Youth in Action"

URBANA, Ill. –  When Dhruv Rebba first visited the Indian village his father grew up in, he saw a community struggling because it didn’t have access to the internet. The high school freshman and Illinois 4-H member knew he had the skills and drive to make a difference and was inspired to create Universal Help, a non-profit devoted to providing access to STEM education both rural India and his home community. 

Rebba, age 17 of Normal, won the 2022 4-H Youth in Action Award for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) sponsored by HughesNet® for his innovation and activism.

“4-H gave me the confidence to know I can solve daunting problems,” Rebba says. “After conquering what seems like impossible challenges with my 4-H robotics team, I have known from a young age that I’m capable of doing a lot, and there’s a solution to be found for almost any problem.”

The national 4-H Youth in Action Awards began in 2010 to recognize 4-H members who use the knowledge they gained in 4-H to create a lasting impact in their communities. The award is announced during National 4-H Week, October 3 to 9.

By being involved with McLean County 4-H, Rebba has access to affordable STEM education. Using the leadership and problem-solving skills he learned in 4-H, he transformed his interest in STEM into a tool to help other students in Illinois and across the world learn.

The mission of Rebba’s nonprofit Universal Help is “improving the quality of life for people all over the world in innovative ways.” The organization does this by providing textbooks, internet access, computers, and other technology to students and schools in rural India. Universal Help has also provided relief during natural disasters, established an isolation center during the recent COVID-19 Delta variant surge, and expanded solar energy power access.

Rebba also works to create STEM education opportunities for young people in his own Central Illinois community by establishing two new 4-H robotics clubs at local schools and advocating with national policymakers for increased support of after-school STEM programs. He is also a founding member of the 4-H in Space and mission command team, partnering with the University of Illinois STEM Extension and Lab for Advanced Space Stations at Illinois.

“The impact that Dhruv Rebba has demonstrated in his community and globally to advance accessibility to STEM education resources and internet connectivity is admirable,” says Peter Gulla, senior vice president of marketing for HughesNet. “He is the personification of a youth leader who inspires others by his actions.”

Rebba plans to pursue a career in engineering or computer science after graduating high school in 2022. In addition to receiving a $5,000 STEM scholarship for higher education as part of the award, Rebba will serve as an advocate and spokesperson for 4-H STEM programming.

To learn more about the 4-H Youth in Action Awards and to view pillar winners from around the country, please visit www.4-h.org/youthinaction.

About 4-H: 4-H, the nation’s largest youth development organization, grows confident young people who are empowered for life today and prepared for career tomorrow. 4-H programs empower nearly six million young people across the U.S. through experiences that develop critical life skills. 4-H is the youth development program of our nation’s Cooperative Extension System and USDA, and serves every county and parish in the U.S. through a network of 110 public universities and more than 3,000 local Extension offices. Globally, 4-H collaborates with independent programs to empower one million youth in 50 countries. The research-backed 4-H experience grows young people who are four times more likely to contribute to their communities; two times more likely to make healthier choices; two times more likely to be civically active; and two times more likely to participate in STEM programs. Learn more about 4-H at 4-H.org and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

About Extension: Illinois Extension leads public outreach for University of Illinois by translating research into action plans that allow Illinois families, businesses, and community leaders to solve problems, make informed decisions, and adapt to changes and opportunities. 

About Hughes Network Systems: Hughes Network Systems is the global leader in broadband satellite technology and services for home and office. Its flagship high-speed satellite Internet service is HughesNet®, the world’s largest satellite network with over 1.5 million residential and business customers across the Americas. For additional information about Hughes, please visit www.hughes.com and follow @HughesConnects on Twitter.